While we await for everything pumpkin spice to descend, my American Lit classes this year are entering the world of the creepy:  Gothic Lit.  And who better to read and learn about than America’s creepiest author, Edgar Allan Poe.  The mystery behind Poe’s death has been a source of fascination for students and what better way to engage them than in a rousing debate?

This year, students are evaluating several of the prominent theories attributed to the death of Poe and crafting persuasive presentations proving that their theory must be correct.  Students have covered the reading, writing, research and speaking standards employing primary and secondary source documents to craft their claims and arguments about Poe.

Since it is early in the year, I’m still conducting formative assessments on the skills that they are bringing to class so I have not much used direct instruction.  By the end of this project, I will be able to evaluate students’ abilities to write claims, create work cited pages, evaluate source validity then craft a compelling argument.  The best part of this project?  Students are highly engaged and laughing as they discuss the nuances of cooping and rabies.  The data that I am gathering by having students work on this project will help me set the course for many of my major assignments.

This project has been a win win for us all.  Students are learning and engaged and I am assessing on a host of skills.  My goblins clearly need more work on claim development but they have demonstrated their ability to find research information and are starting to link it back to their claim-esque statements.  Reference pages were turned in separately and they look pretty solid.   Doing a debate with visuals has resulted in tighter writing with focused skills that has yielded a ton of information in a short window.  Give it a try!

WVCTE wants you to contribute to the conversation.  What are you doing this year in your American Literature classroom?  Leave us a comment, Tweet us your thoughts @WVCTE, or connect with us on Facebook!

Cheryl Stahle is a contributing blogger for WVCTE.  She teaches at Parkersburg High School and is the Co-Director of the Central West Virginia Writing Project based out of Marshall University and is the Vice President of the Greater Kanawha Valley Reading Council.  She is a not so regular tweeter @msstahleclass but you can find her on Instagram at @stahlecheryl.  Cheryl presents professional development at local and state conferences throughout the year—make sure to stop by and introduce yourself!  Besides teaching American Literature, her other classroom goal is to teach 1970s classic rock to her students.  This year, Cheryl is working on her Superintendent certification….more to come on this.

Categories: Blog

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